ePub 版

nature of that difference will be explained here. after; in the mean time it will be sufficient to observe, that the priests are admitted to have been, after the king, the principal persons in the country. The king bound himself by the rules established in their conclave; their persons were respected, and their laws obeyed without a murmur; and they were in possession of one third of the whole land.' M. Larcher attributes so much to their influence in the explication of history, that, in his opinion, all the successive reigns of the gods in Egypt are to be considered only as so many colleges of priests, succeeding and subverting one another. ? For, at a much later period, we are assured that a religious dispute was sufficient at any time to kindle a sedition among the vast multitude who peopled Alexandria. 3 The zeal for their own idolatry, with which the Magi contrived to inspire their victorious chieftains, was exemplified in another remarkable instance. When Tiridates recovered Armenia, A.D. 286, the statues of the deified kings and the sacred images of the sun and moon were broken in pieces by the Persian conquerors, and the perpetual fire of Ormuzd was kindled upon an altar erected on the summit of Mount Bagavan“, which no doubt had before been devoted to a very different system of rites,

1 Col. Tod's Comparison of the Hind. and Theb. Hercul., Trans. As. Soc. v. iji. 232. Diod. Sic, lib. i. 66.

2 Etudes de l'Histoire ienne, par P. C. Levesque, i. 390.
3 Gibbon's Hist. i. 453.
4 Ibid. ii. p. 140.

more resembling those which were practised in Egypt. Again, in Hindostan, the sacerdotal caste enjoyed the same high station in society, and commanded the same respect from the military chiefs. Thus it is related, that in 1798, Bajee Rao, the Peishwa, laid his head at the feet of Nana Furnawees, and swore by those feet to consider him his father: where it is remarked by the historian, that to swear by the feet of a Brahmin, is one of the most sacred and solemn of Hindoo oaths'; and though the Mahrattas are not so remarkable as the other Hindoos for their veneration of that order, yet Sivajee, the founder of their power,

before he ventured on his expedition into the Carnatic in 1677, went to the temple of Purwuttum, and gave large sums to the Brahmins, who, though they are the priesthood, have long been the principal officers, civil and military, in all Hindoo states, and those who strictly follow the tenets of their faith are held in great esteem. ? Lastly, in the South Sea Islands, the priests must of necessity have had great political power, since the gods were invoked in their persons. Tooi Tonga was the name of an hereditary priest, who was always sacred in his lifetime, and worshipped after death. Since, then, it has been abundantly proved, from the respect shown by so many different nations to the ministers of religion, and the exalted station they occupied in society, that religion itself, however false, how, ever superstitious, however absurd, must have been a political engine of the first importance, in determining the government and institutions of the earliest ages, it is not unreasonable to conclude that many of those names which have floated down to us upon the stream of time, and puzzle us to say from whence they came, had their real origin in this source; and that many of those achievements which have been sometimes taken for sheer fable, and at other times, with laborious futility, have been digested into serious history, are in truth traditional notices of sacerdotal conflicts, and the struggle of rival sects; which, when their power had yielded to other forms of worship, and the in, terest in their success had passed away, were converted into the exploits of heroes by the active imagination of a warlike people.

1 Duff's Hist. of the Mahrattas, iii. 171. 2 Ibid. i, 278. and 10.

3 Tooi means a Chief, and To'onga is a sign of the plural number of animated beings ; so that the priest was considered the chief of animated beings, though he was not the chief of any tribe. — Mariner's Account of the Tonga Islands, i. 365.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]



But besides the records of tradition, other records of the earliest time, engraven on popular usages, have survived the recollection of their origin among those who practise them, -- usages which yet may

be traced up to their real source by a diligent investigation of history. If, then, many of these usages can be seen to converge to one point from many different parts of the globe's circumference, that point must be the centre of the circle, the central point from which all such customs and all nations have radiated in various directions. Vallancey urges the same argument, though with different views. If,” says he, “we meet with many religious customs generally practised by the inhabitants of Syria and the eastern world, and equally followed by the western inhabitants of Gaul, Germany, Spain, Britain, and Ireland ; if we find monuments of the same kind in Africa and Sweden, or still more distant regions, to be surprised, but to consider that mankind travelled from Babel equally instructed in all the notions and customs common to them there, and that it is no wonder if some of the deepest rooted

we are not

[ocr errors]

principles, and the most prevailing customs, reached even as far as mankind extended themselves, that is, to the utmost extremities of the earth.” If any one doubts the possibility of customs continuing in force so long after the reason of them has been lost and the intention forgotten, it may be useful to convince him of his error by adducing a few examples of the fact. At Aboukir, the site of the ancient Canopus, which was formerly an insulated rock, the temple of Serapis stood, and Strabo describes the number of pilgrims who resorted to it as something quite astonishing.” “These pilgrimages,” says Savary, “which have been customary ever since the time of Herodotus, still subsist in our own days. The Pagans went to the temple of Serapis ; the Turks go to the tomb of their santons there; the Copts to the churches of their saints ; and both these abandon themselves to enjoyment, and Turkish gravity has been unable to abolish those licentious songs and dances which seem to have originated with the Egyptians.” It must be granted that a usage which extends from the first worship of Serapis in Egypt down to the present time, can boast of no inconsiderable duration. But when it shall have been shown who the deity was whom they worshipped at Canopus, it will be seen that the custom is connected by an uninterrupted chain with the first events of the

[blocks in formation]
« 上一頁繼續 »